Peter Crouch to Stoke City: 6ft 7in of Logic
Armed with excellent service from the wings by Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington, and – somewhat literally – from the touchline with Rory Delap’s remarkable long throw-ins, 6ft 7in Peter Crouch has moved to a team that are hell-bent on providing him with the sort of service he should thrive upon.
It follows that the former Spurs striker should grab his fair share of goals for the Potters. Sure, Kenwyne Jones and Ricardo Fuller will be rivalling him for the ‘big man up top’ role, but as Tony Pulis’s most recent big-money signing – £10m is no snip – he should be guaranteed plenty of game time, something he didn’t look like being afforded at White Hart Lane this season.
‘He [Harry Redknapp] has brought in players and it would have been difficult for me to get a game,’ Crouch stated recently. The much-travelled front-man also noted that ‘no player wants to sit on the bench, […] I want to be playing and enjoying my football,’ and this should transpire with Stoke. More game time coupled with Stoke’s ideal service for him, should translate to more goals and therefore a Peter Crouch who is enjoying his football.
Goal-scoring chances should also rise for Crouch thanks to the proliferation of aerial talents that Stoke have on their books currently, not least in Robert Huth, the 6ft 3in defender who bagged six league goals last season. Rather than being the focus of the opposition’s defensive planning (certainly as far as set-piece aerial threats go) as he often was at Spurs, the likes of Huth and Ryan Shawcross might well distract and occupy Crouch’s traditional markers, allowing Crouch to take on weaker defenders. Consequently, more assists might well come from Crouch too.
He will also have the ‘explosive pace’ of deadline day arrival Cameron Jerome alongside him up front, an almost ideal foil for his flick-ons and knock-downs, and whose pace will force defenders to back off and give Crouch more room. It would be remiss to forget that with Crouch and Jermain Defoe up front in a four-four-two for the 2009-10 season Tottenham finished in fourth place on 70 points, having scored 67 goals with a goal difference of +26. Last season, with Spurs switching to a four-five-one revolving around the mercurial Rafael van der Vaart and the sole striker position being rotated between Defoe, Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko, Tottenham finished lower (fifth), with less points (62), and with fewer goals scored (55) at a worse goal difference (+9). Crouch and a little quick man seems to pay benefits…
Ultimately, however, Crouch will be enticed by all of the above as – if all goes to plan – it will help his chances of earning a recall to the international fold. As Tony Pulis noted when commenting on his new striker, Crouch’s ‘goals-per-games ratio for England is remarkable,’ which is obviously Stoke’s gain, but at the moment Crouch is being overlooked in favour of quicker and younger alternatives. A successful season with Stoke should set him up nicely for a crack at returning to the England squad in time for the 2012 European Championships.
As for the club itself, Stoke City have made another excellent, squad-improving signing. £10m is no small outlay for a club in just their fourth season of Premier League football, but with an FA Cup final to their name and a European adventure scheduled for this season, such purchases add to a growing sense of optimism around the Britannia stadium.
Comparing the current Stoke side with the team that earned the club promotion back to the top flight of English football and it is clear to see how far the Potters have come. That Crouch will work harder than Kenwyne Jones and offers more quality than Mamady Sidibe is almost seen as a given, but where once there stood (often literally) the usually-hapless Michael Duberry now stands England internationals future and past in Shawcross, Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson, for example.
Crouch’s assertion that Stoke ‘has been a stable Premier League club for a few years now’ is an astute one, as it is on this solid base to which the talent has been added. The fact that Stoke are now acquiring the likes of Crouch tallies well with chief executive Tony Scholes’ belief that his club ‘has made incredible strides forward over the past five years.’ There have been improvements in every department, and Crouch along with Jerome and Wilson Palacios are amongst the latest. As Crouch commented, ‘as you can see from the other signings which have been made recently, the Club is really moving in the right direction and looking to do big things now.’
Crouch and his new team should enjoy a good season together, and although the Europa League exertions might tire a few legs quicker than in the past, this will not drastically impact upon league form. Indeed, it is testament to the work of Pulis and the purchases the club have engineered that they are now looking to the top ten as a realistic target, as opposed to fretting over relegation as a genuine threat (although securing survival, as with almost all clubs, will be first priority for the season). It would also be laughable to suggest that another good cup run – either domestic or European – is beyond the Potters.
In Crouch’s own words, ‘the future is bright for Stoke,’ and a bright future for Stoke should contribute to a bright future for Crouch, especially with a return to the international fold top of his list of targets. All-in-all, this looks every inch the perfect match.
Runs to cup finals, international signings, and European football – it is little wonder manager Tony Pulis draws attention to ‘a real buzz of excitement around the city.’ I bet Delilah’s got a chuffing great grin on her face!…